Bowl picture brighter out East

Notre Dame’s new affiliation with the Atlantic Coast Conference provides sturdy shelter for the majority of its athletic teams. Just as important, though, is the place it provides for the Irish football team to rest its head one night each December or January.

Senior Tyler Eifert catches a pass in Notre Dame's bowl game loss to the ACC's Florida State last December.

Earlier this summer reports surfaced that Notre Dame was working to develop a regular relationship with the Orange Bowl and the ACC. League commissioner John Swofford said Wednesday that no deal was final, but the Irish will most likely be a potential opponent for the ACC champion in the Orange Bowl if they qualify for the game.

“In all probability Notre Dame will be one of multiple potential participants on the opponent side of the Orange Bowl. The ACC will keep all of its Orange Bowl revenues as a contract game. The team that plays us has the same situation on the other side. There is the possibility of an ACC-Notre Dame Orange Bowl,” he said.

The relationship between Notre Dame and its new conference becomes even cozier when it drops below the BCS level in the future. Swofford said the Irish “will basically become an ACC team” in terms of the non-BCS bowl structure in the conference.

Notre Dame will be eligible to play in any of the seven non-BCS bowls currently contracted to select an ACC team. (See list below) The bowls can pick Notre Dame as a participant as long as the Irish are within one win of the best available conference team for that slot. For example, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, which takes the ACC’s second best team, can pick a 9-3 Notre Dame team over a 10-2 conference team that doesn’t win the ACC championship.

“From a football standpoint, we have further solidified our future as an independent in college football, maintained our unique ability to schedule nationally and greatly improved our postseason bowl game options,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

Currently, Notre Dame has loose connections with the Champs Sports Bowl (now the Russell Athletic Bowl) and the Sun Bowl, but few remaining options other than to fill slots for conferences that do not qualify enough teams to fill all available bowl slots. Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick said the new postseason ties with the ACC will go into effect in 2014 when the college football playoff begins.

Nuts and Bolts
- Notre Dame is contractually obligated to give the Big East 27 months notice before it officially leaves the conference, which means the school wouldn’t be able to join the ACC until the start of the 20!5-2016 academic year. Swarbrick said Wednesday that he will discuss “options to accelerate” their departure from the Big East. Pittsburgh and Syracuse, who both announced their decision to ditch the Big East for the ACC a year ago, were able to speed up the process by agreeing to pay a $7.5 million exit fee.

- When the Irish do join, they will give the conference 15 member schools, which is where Swofford and the university presidents intend to stay.

“There is no need to add a 16th team to the league, and there’s no intention of doing so. In fact, from a practical standpoint it really is illogical,” he said.

The ACC doesn’t have divisions in its basketball conference so an odd number of teams doesn’t present a problem. Because Notre Dame won’t be playing football in the conference, their addition doesn’t throw off the current plan for two seven-team divisions in that sport.

- Notre Dame will play five ACC schools in football each season starting in 2014 on a rotation that will include every team in the conference at least one every three years. Of those five games, they will rotate between playing three at home and three on the road every other year.

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